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Half Marathon

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The day after vegan

October 9, 2017

Some of you have asked about the day after The Livin la Vida Vegan Challenge, and I guess, in hindsight, I did kind of leave you hanging a bit. Blogging every day for 14 days was a little intense for me. If you don’t want to read on, or suspense just isn’t you’re thing, yes, I finished the half marathon, and yes, I ate ALL the things, and yes, I got sicker than a dog. Read on if you’d like a deeper dive into any of the aforementioned statements.

The big race.
This was my third half marathon (running, sixth if you count the times I walked that mug). The beautiful thing about coming into a race like this with a few under your belt is the reassurance that you will, eventually, finish. It might not be pretty, but you’ll get there. I think that’s the most encouraging mantra to keep in your back pocket. “I will finish this. I will not die. I will finish this. I will not die.” People always say, “I couldn’t run that long,” or ask, “How do you do that?” and the truth is, you just keep shuffling along.

Jackie (my partna) and I are not record-setters. We don’t wear the fancy, fast shorts that look like bathing suit bottoms. We don’t have compression socks, or special sunglasses. We are just a couple of moms, with semi-soft bodies (me more so than her), who’ve been friends for a couple decades, who like to come out together and turn in a lackluster performance. That’s just us. That’s our m.o. We own that.

Forget your corral letter, forget your pace group, that is the categorization that matters. When you know who you are and what you’re doing there, the perspective really alleviates the pressure. We’re pretty content in the middle of the pack, because, for us, it’s just about proving our bodies are still capable of carrying us that far. We are not broken. We are not entirely swallowed up by our roles as mom or wife or nurse or writer. We are strong, amateur athletes with veracious lions (or more like angry kittens) sleeping just beneath our skin. At least for one day of the year that’s what we are.

The morning of the race was chilly. I didn’t eat any meat or dairy. I made a smoothie with spirulina, 1 scoop protein powder, coconut water, spinach and some Beet Elite. I ate a bowl of multigrain Cheerios, too, because it sounded good. That was it. And my stomach felt … off.

It was touch-and-go right up until the cannon went off marking the start of the race. Once we got moving, things in my belly really calmed down. In fact, the first 3 miles flew by. I felt great, Jac felt great. We were right on the heels of the 2:20 pace group. Considering we finished around 2:23 last year, that was pretty damn good.

“At Mile 4, let’s stop and have a chew and some water,” I said.
“Yup, that’s what I was thinking,” Jackie agreed.

This would be the biggest mistake we made all day.

Mile 4 is where the course takes a turn off of the initial long drag. In the past, it’s been a point where we picked up momentum. This year, it was the death of it. There was a gradual decline in our pace from Mile 5, on. I felt fine mentally, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, but my legs just started running out of steam. Like, in my mind they were flying, but in my shadow they looked more like a baby colt in a pool of tar.

We walked a few times, but we knew our friend Molly would be waiting at Mile 10.

“If we can just get to Molly,” Jackie would say.
“Right,” I’d agree.
“If we can just make it to Molly we’ll stop, have a chew, and then finish strong.”

And then …

“There’s Molly’s ass!” Jackie yelled.
“That’s not Molly’s ass.”
“Isn’t that her ass?”
“Are you sure?”
“There’s Mol!!” I said, pointing to our dear girl, standing on a corner waving with her two kiddos.

It was like seeing a well in the desert. We’d been talking about her for so long. I think we both thought something might spark deep down inside us when we reached her embrace on that sunny September morning. But instead, we just felt full of dread.

Three miles to go.

My hips for sure hurt, though not as bad as they had on our longer training runs. Jac’s knees were getting to her. But bottom line, we just had nothing left in the tank.

“Oh shit,” Jackie said, motioning her head over her shoulder.

I turned to see the 2:30 pace group right behind us, seconds from passing. I shrugged and reminded her we just wanted to finish. We were racing ourselves. And all the other bullshit we tell ourselves to get our broken down bodies across the finish line.

And cross the finish line we did, at 2:31. “Totally plant-powered!” I exclaimed in a rush of dopey adrenaline. Jac wasn’t into it.

Passing my small tribe on the way into the arena, I was reminded, yet again, why we do this. Why we log the miles for 12 weeks beforehand. Why we abuse our aging bodies and spend so much time away from the kids. It’s for that moment you look down at your feet, knowing you can stop. That your children are watching. That you and your best friend just ran 13.1 motha truckin’ miles, together. Just a couple of moms, with semi-soft bodies (me more so than her), who’ve been friends for a couple decades, who like to come out together and turn in a lackluster performance, just ran 13.1 miles.

I ate 1.5 donuts and half a Gatorade. My stomach, again, was … off.

The very hungry caterpillar.
At noon, I had a Big John from Jimmy Johns and chips, but I was still hungry.

At 12:45, I had 2 cookies, but I was still hungry.

At 3, I had 2 giant chocolate truffles, but … I had to go to a wedding.

Dinner, and a deathblow to veganism.
The wedding was so amazing. It was touching and lovely and just entirely enchanting. I had to leave before the reception and head over to Matt’s for his Second Annual Fancy Dinner Party. I chugged water with an electrolyte tab on the way over and prayed for a solid stomach.

My brother bid on a special dinner-in-your-home package at a live auction last fall, and that night a special group of friends, myself included, would garner the rewards of that bid. The theme was Bourbon Pairings, so, on the plus side, we all knew we were in trouble right outta the gate. There wouldn’t be any surprises.

We started with bourbon sours. They were that perfect storm of delicious flavors in small glasses. When we ordered another round after the first course I think we sent ourselves down the path of mass destruction. It was a force greater than ourselves. They were too delicious. The glasses seemed so tiny, so harmless.

Basically, from there what transpired was a parade of meat butters and creamy dairy delights. Goat cheese-stuffed dates, fancy tater tots with a sauce you want to cheat on your husband with, duck tongue tacos (I know, I had the same reaction, but those tongues were tasty), pork belly that fell apart the second it touched your tastebuds, and bourbon s’mores. As meals go, this one was up there with the Wicked Spoon buffet in Vegas and last year’s Straight Outta Compton Fancy Dinner.

First Course
Herb De Provence chevre stuffed dates / wrapped with prosciutto ham / blue cheese fondue

Second Course
Patatas Bravas / Parmesan-truffle encrusted / smoked paprika aioli

Third Course
Duck tongue taco / bourbon barrel smoked salsa rojo / spiced red onion escabache / queso fresco/ achiote crema

Fourth Course
Pork belly confit / bourbon gastrique / pickled English cucumbers/balsamic pearls / charred tomato dust/orange blossom mousse

Blood orange sorbet

Fifth Course
Woodford reserved braised short ribs / oaxacan mole sauce/lemon scented farro grain / coconut espuma

Sixth Course
Bourbon Marshmallow s’mores / ”campfire smoke”/ snap-crackle-pop graham crackers / dark chocolate ribbon


I emerged from my brother’s basement – the scene of the meat butter massacre – around 11:30, sat down, and let the doom wash over me like a 50-gallon bucket at a waterpark. I was in trouble. My stomach, my head, my body. I’d been still long enough for everything to catch up to me and now there was no running from it. My legs were too tired. My tummy was too full of all the animal things I turned away for two weeks. Plus, the bourbon. I gave Hank “the look” and we made an exit.

I slept on our new bathroom floor.

It was cold.


And that, dear friends, is what happened the day after the Livin’ la Vida Vegan Challenge.


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 14 (food and gratitude)

September 30, 2017

Holy hot dogs made of carrots, batman! We made it to Day 14 of the Livin la Vida Vegan 14-Day Challenge. I doubt that anyone is half as excited as my husband and children, who are anxious to get the flour-coated gluten balls off their plates.

It’s an interesting day because it’s the day before race day and the last day of this crazy adventure. I’m very aware of my body today, I guess is what I’m saying. How does it feel … How will it feel in the morning … Was this smart … Will this pay off … Will I have enough gas in the tank come morning? I’m not quite sure what the ole’ girl has in ‘er.

7:30 a.m.
I gave myself a splash of the Califa this morning, against my better judgment, and went about blending up the same smoothie as yesterday. The spirulina gets less noticeable every day, but I need to find a way to get the chocolate protein powder completely out of the equation. Baby steps. I have to keep reminding myself that the work doesn’t end just because the jumpstart is over. Sunday can be vegan. Monday can be vegan. (Tomorrow is definitely not going to be vegan.)

12:30 p.m.
I picked up my race packet and grabbed lunch at an adorable diner downtown with a friend from work. There were so many vegan options, I was pleasantly surprised. I opted for this insane veggie panini (hold the havarti) and kettle chips. Big, meaty mushrooms and thin strips of zucchini and tomatoes … it was fire! The chips weren’t bad, either.

It’s interesting, you’d think it would be so hard to go out, but truly it’s just a matter of leaving off a few things here and there. And honestly, as heavy as they sauce and suffocate things with cheese these days, I find they actually taste better without all of the fixins on occasion.

5 p.m.
I ate celery and almond butter for no good reason.

6 p.m.
Every Friday night we have dinner with my folks, then come back to our house and play three hands of euchre. We have an ongoing tally: Boys: 204, Granny Panties 157. It’s always a big deal … Where are we going to go? What sounds good? It’s a tradition rooted in food and an ultra-competitive card game. Tonight we went to a local place with a huge menu. I assumed there would be something to bring us home on this thing.

There wasn’t much. Hank got a veggie wrap that looked less than awesome (and he reported tasted as such) and I got veggie tacos. They had a pound of black beans on each tortilla (blech) topped with a corn relish and sliced underripe avocadoes. It came with, what else, a side scoop of black beans. Not the coolest way to go out, but I did the job. We were fed.

I stared at my mom’s pulled pork sandwich like a little girl outside a bridal shop.

8 p.m.
A vegan everything cookie to silence my screaming internal sugar demon and some ginger kombucha. For the record, just so everyone is crystal clear on the matter, my father believes that the Standard American Diet, paired with exercise is really what people need … none of this microbiome, gut health mumbo jumbo the kids keep yapping about. Write it down, somebody. We’re all going to regret shooting apple cider vinegar and gagging down tubs of sauerkraut one day.

9:50 p.m.
I feel like a half an almond butter sandwich is a smart choice right now. I don’t think I got enough protein tonight and I’m nervous about my plant-powered 13 in the morning. I’m just going to sit here and think about it until I get up and make it.

It was the right call.

10 p.m.
So … final thoughts on this whole thing. I guess the most common thing people ask is, “Do you regret doing this?” No. I learn something every time I try one of these challenges, and I think that, even though I didn’t lose 20 pounds in 14 days, which, let’s be honest, I was secretly hoping would happen, I did change my mentality a bit. And big change often starts with “a bit”.

I’m sleeping like a dead man, my head fog is gone and I move easier when I exercise. In truth, I doubt 14 days is sufficient for something like this, though I suspect I knew that all along. It was a convenient, manageable chunk of time, but now, on the other side of it, the ending feels abrupt, premature. But I’m sitting here, fingers on the keys, focusing on all the wins.

I can remember, not that long ago, staring at my Pinterest boards for hours trying to come up with Meatless Monday ideas. I’ve known for some time that less meat, less dairy, less animal fat, is better, but I’ve really lagged on the execution. Now, I know that this house won’t crumble without a deep freezer full of the cast of Babe chillin’ in it. I know we will eat our tofu lettuce wraps and carry on.

Every day, for 14 days, more than 500 people stopped by to see what we ate, how it went over and how we were feeling about the whole thing. That just blows my mind. From your time here on these pages, whether you’d been to the blog before or not, I can only hope you garnered a laugh and an actionable takeaway. Maybe that was a product recommendation (likely from Costco, let’s be honest) or a recipe to try. Whatever it was, I pray that our experiment sparked one of your own.

If you’re a veteran vegan or a newbie or considering a change or just a supportive friend, I thank you for spending some of your day with me and, of course, I invite you to stick around for the regular DSS chatter on life, love and losing my shit on a daily basis. Your interest and advice has been one of the greatest pearls from this whole experience. Every text, every email, every instant message, every private message, every comment, every shared pin, every everything. Your kindness was an unexpected, beautiful byproduct of dipping our toes into the vegan pool. I feel humbled and encouraged.

As for us? Well, tomorrow is Vegas, not vegan. I plan to chase the half marathon with donuts and a tub of cookies, none of which I will apologize for. Then we have a fun dinner with friends on the books for the evening and I plan to wear maternity pants and just get into bed with all the foods. All of them.

But after that, we’ll see. I finished my meal plan for next week and it’s all meat- and dairy-free for me. These other yahoos will have to sort things out for themselves. Of course, I do 90 percent of the cooking, so it could get interesting.

Good night, sweet friends, old and new. It’s time for me to turn in. Tomorrow seems like a great day for a run, doesn’t it?

Tune in Today

Fighting for it, from start to finish

October 7, 2016

“Mama, we had our Panda Powwow today.”
“You did?!” Did you get a new life skill to work on?”
“Cool, what is it?”
“I can’t remember.”
“It starts with a p … It’s a long word …”
“Noooo …”
“Noooo …”
“Hmm. And it starts with a p?”
“Yeah. It’s like, when something is really, really hard. But, like, you just keep trying to do it anyway. And then you, like, win over it. Because you just kept on trying. Like, you know, even when nobody thought you could do it.”


When we set goals, the intent is always to persevere. And sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t (because sometimes, you won’t). Last Saturday I successfully ran my second half marathon, and I was humbled and reminded yet again that our bodies can do amazing things when we will them to.


The entire race journey is really an exercise in body awareness and mental manipulation. It is perhaps the only true exception to the widely accepted definition of insanity. You show up and repeat the same action, day after day, mile after mile, hour after hour, song after song, and expect different outcomes. But it doesn’t make you crazy. Just optimistic. Because in this case you actually do get a mixed bag of results depending on the day, the weather, the wind, the blisters. My 8-mile training run was as painful for my pride as it was for my knees and lungs. I ached psychologically, physically, spiritually, from the second my sneakers hit the pavement until we turned the final corner. Just 4 weeks later, I completed a 10-mile run with a full minute shaved off my splits and a damn-near cocky disposition. Running is the most unpredictable game you can play with yourself. Strategy is for suckers.

And yet, I keep dealing myself in. I am not a great runner. I aspire to be, of course, but I am not great. I will never break the tape. In fact, the tape and streamers have been swept up and taken to the dumpster 5 blocks away by the time I finish. But I still come to the party. Better yet, I bring a guest. If you’ve been hanging in here for awhile you might remember my bud Britni who ran with me last year. That was until we had to part dramatically around mile 10 and I finished ‘er out with a 70-year-old stranger.

This year Britni went and got herself in the family way, but one of my ride-or-dies for the last 18 years, Jackie, signed up. Jackie, much like me, much like Britni, was not a runner when she checked the boxes to enter the race. It was a leap of faith. It was a declaration of an intent to persevere. It was brave, and she was brave for doing it. What possessed her? I think the same thing that possesses most people who sign up for these things. It’s a temporary self-improvement project. It’s purpose. Plus, don’t we all just want a win once in awhile?

For 12 weeks, starting in July, every Sunday I met either Jackie or my embarrassingly swifter friend Jill for the week’s long run. While the training schedule was exactly the same, something felt different this year. I don’t think I had what I would categorize as “a good run” until the very last training run the Monday before the race.


“Man, do you feel older this year?” Jill asked during week 3.
“Ya know, I do.” I said.

You guys, i wish I were being facetious. At the ripe age of 33, my hips, ankles, knees and back screamed at me for 12 straight weeks to, for the love of all that is holy, stop hammering them into the ground and dragging them up small hills that felt like Mount Kilimanjaro. I guess I just never found my groove this go-around. But Jackie did, and then she lost it, and then she found it again. And I was so, so proud.

There is a rare joy that comes with watching someone else uncover a soul-changing strength that was just lurking in the caverns of their being, completely untapped. While I think most of us have that grit, not everyone chooses to go looking for it. Or to push themselves to that point where you either discover it or abandon the pursuit of it. Turns out, I get my jollies watching others push themselves to this uncomfortable, magnificent place. I mean, I like to do it myself as well, but moreso it’s the watching others.

Glennon Doyle Melton has a term for these discovery missions, and life in general. She calls them, “brutiful”. Because certain moments of every day are brutal. And certain moments of every day are beautiful. Life is brutiful. Running is brutiful.

There were stretches of country roads where it was just me, Jackie, God and the sunset. Beautiful. There were gradual inclines that hit just as a side stitch settled in. Brutal. High fiving one of my dearest friends after 2 hours of uninterrupted conversation and a new personal best; Beautiful. Chaffed armpits and chin acne; Brutal. See how that works. It’s the good with the bad. The tightrope stretched between triumph and adversity. Any challenge worth taking is one peppered with trials because, let’s face it, perseverance is a prize that doesn’t come cheap.


On the day of the race, my sweet Jackie felt good. Really good. The temperature was ideal. The crowd and spectators were supportive. All the pieces were in place for a spectacular morning. But I had lead legs. I don’t know why. Why do these things ever happen? Not enough training. Too much training. The fact that I had peanut butter toast instead of dippy eggs. Who knows. But my limbs felt like cinder blocks from mile 3 on.

I’m always amazed at the master-slave relationship between the mind and the body. If you will it, they will run. Confession: The only things that fueled me to the finish line on that October morning were my persistent best friend, stupid pride and a ravenous desire for Chipotle.

“Get outta your head,” Jackie urged. “You’ve got this, Court.”
[me, panting]
“C’mon girl. We’re finishing this thing together. I can’t do it without you.”
[more panting] “Uh huh.”
“I can tell you’re in your head. C’mon Court!”
“Jac, I love you, but this won’t make me go any faster.”
[both panting]

I so badly wanted her well-intentioned pep talk to be the magic pill that broke up the cement encasing my extremities and my state of mind, but sadly it just wasn’t that kind of day for this old mare. It’s so frustrating when your expectation for yourself and your actual ability can’t find a way to communicate and compromise.

But just as tortoises do, I slowly, steadily finished the race. I think that’s a big part of the bargaining I’ve learned to do with myself. I accept that I will finish, but I also have to accept that I won’t be doing it quickly. Once I resign myself to the reality that I will eventually get where I’m going and I won’t, in fact, die getting there, I’m usually OK with hangin’ in. But speed is nonnegotiable. My body just takes it off the table. Covering the distance will have to be enough.

When the finish line was in sight, my homegirl sprinted it in. “Get that for yourself,” I thought. My pace stayed lukewarm but amazingly, I finished the race 4 minutes faster than I did last year. Jill blew her goal out of the water and came in well under 2 hours. I see a full marathon in that mama’s future.

The punctuation mark to these things is always the post-race picture. It’s over. You did it. You can throw your arms over each other’s shoulders, rehash the brutiful moments and smile the truest smile. Because that smile is relief spilling out of you. Relief that you did it. Relief that they did it. Relief that no one got hurt. Relief that all that time away from your family wasn’t for nothing. Relief that rest is a car ride away.


Then there’s the babies. Ahhh, the babies. As a mother to three little impressionable girls (Jill and Jackie are also mothers of three), the pain of lost toenails and runner’s knee and stubborn chaffing dissolves when I see their genuinely ecstatic little faces. The runners enter a baseball stadium at the end of this race, and Hank stood above the entryway into the outfield, so when I made that turn to bring it home, my tiny tribe was standing right above me. They screamed from their toes and squeezed excitedly onto the fence railings. “Go Mama!” That sound rained down on me and, combined with the sight of the end, triggered the most organic emotional release. My hot tears carved jagged trails through my salt-crusted cheeks and the peace of validation hugged my heart. My poor training runs and lackluster performance washed away because it was obvious they didn’t care. In their eyes, I had won the whole damn thing.


And after all of it was over – After they asked to wear my medal. After I admired their homemade sign. After I promised I’d help them practice so they, too, could become a runner. – I bent down, scooped up the littlest one, put her on my hip and started the long walk back to the car. The glory is great, but it doesn’t have the longest lifespan. I could feel it fading already. The lesson, however … the lesson will last. All the good ones do.

“steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc.,especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”

Tune in Today

Run this for me

September 28, 2015

Update: Tune in today to see if she can … run her first half marathon.

The short of it is, I finished the race. I ran 13.1 miles with thousands of my closest strangers. The long of it is, it was probably the hardest physical feat I’ve ever accomplished in my life. Tougher than child birth, you ask? Oh, 100 percent. See, with labor, once that little human is in the chute, you can’t just opt out of the process. With running a race, you have to will yourself to keep going, knowing with every step that you could technically just step to the sidewalk, ask an onlooker for a ride to the nearest bar and call it a day. I mean, you really could. They’re just standing there. Not that I considered it or anything …

I woke up early, around 6, and had a super-safe piece of whole wheat toast with almond butter and honey. I did some quick yoga, changed and drove south to Britni’s house so her husband could drop us off. I walked in to find Libby, a dear, sweet friend and former coworker, standing in Britni’s kitchen. I knew she was driving up from Indy, but wasn’t expecting to see her before the race. That was the first time I cried on race day.

I’m not sure what it is about getting up early and standing around with a thousand recently hatched, abnormally fast-fluttering butterflies in your stomach that makes you have to pee so much, but porta-pots were all I could think about before we started. We found my girl Jill (who I also trained with) and she also seemed severely nervous, which made me feel better about my churning stomach. She’d been here before, more than a couple times. We opted to leave Jill and her friend Cassie in Corral F and go find “our people” in one a little further – and slower – down the line. Boom! The cannon fired a shot through the crisp, softly lit sky and the crowd started to shuffle and trot toward the start line. This was really happening.


The first 4 miles were uneventful. The weather was glorious for a run, the other folks at our pace were pleasant and we just kept our rhythm and moved along. Our first surprise came around mile 6. Hank’s mom and sister, Natalie, were there with her adorable little family. She had sent a package with an exciting assortment of running snacks and said she wouldn’t be able to make it. But it turns out, they made the 2 hour drive just for the occasion only to turn around and drive back. Again, the tears.


Somewhere around mile 8 we saw our road crew: Britni’s husband and mom, Libby and another dear friend and former coworker, Ashley. Libby, a wispy blonde bottle of spirit and support and a runner herself, ran along with us for a bit in her cute little flats to take our vitals. “How are you feeling? What have you eaten? You look great! Great pace!” We parted and Britni admitted she was about 5 strides from peeing her pants, just in time for a porta-pot. We took a pitstop, drank some Gatorade and ate some magic jelly beans. This is where things took a turn.

As soon as we started back up, I could hear that familiar constriction in Britni’s chest. Her eyes got a little wide. We’d been here before … the wheezing breath, the drainage, the cough. Her upper respiratory infection had given her a reprieve for almost 9 miles, but now, here it was, in spite of her double dose of Sudafed that made her, admittedly, just a little geeked up. I would liken that mile after her chest tightened up to the first hour of a baby giraffe’s life. She would try to jog, only to have her body refuse. We’ll call it 4 or 5 times she tried to just push through. Way more than I would have. Between labored intakes she said, “I need you to leave and go run this. Run it for me.” It was, without a doubt, our Saving Private Ryan moment. It was dramatic and emotional and so out of character for the two of us it just makes it all the better. So, somewhere just before mile 10, two became one.

I saw Libby and the crew shortly after we split and probably a bit over-excitedly instructed her husband to take her inhaler back to her. In retrospect, I might have induced a bit more panic in regard to her condition than what was necessary. My emotions were just so heightened and I felt so awful for her, and, to be honest, awful for me and the wheels just seemed to be falling off the wagon. This isn’t how I saw this thing ending. Libby came running up beside me. “You OK? It’s going to be OK. It’s just a 5k now. She was scared she’d hold you back. She knew this might happen. You got this. OK? You got this.” This was the third time I cried.

Now, it was just me, a sore knee (I tweaked in when I turned back to point to the corner where I’d abandoned Britni) and 3.1 long ass miles. This is where the mental aspect of this sport fascinates me. I started by telling myself, “OK, Courtney, act like you’re just starting now. You have fresh legs and you’re just out for a short 3 mile training run. You can do this. You can do this.” But with no music or sidekick and dwindling energy, my body was entering into negotiations with my brain. My legs put quitting on the table for consideration. My mind considered it. My lungs countered with walking for a bit, just to get through. My mind considered it. It was a game of table tennis that went on for the entirety of my time alone. In the end, my mind took guardianship over my body, ruling it too weak and therefore temporarily insane, and thus, deemed its plea bargains inadmissible.

I came down the final street before you enter into the baseball stadium and round to home plate for the epic finish. I had fumes left in the gas tank, but fumes are all you need at the point, I suppose. I looked up as I came into the out field and saw Spike and Hank. I heard the girls’ sweet little voices yelling, “Go, Mama!” I cried for a fourth time. I heard Jill and her family willing me on to the end. And then it was over. I had done it. Jill had come in under 2 hours, I clocked in at 2:28 and Britni was a mere 10 minutes behind me.


As my group of girlfriends, some I hadn’t trained with at all (mainly because they are stupid fast) and some I had a bit, came together with salt crystallizing on our faces and offensive odors and the biggest smiles you could imagine, I felt consumed by joy. I think that’s part of how running gets ya. It’s an individual sport where, really, all of the contestants just want to see you finish. For those toward the front of the pack, there’s more of a competition to it, sure, but for the vast majority, it’s a competition against yourself and everyone on the road with you is fighting the same battle and rooting for everyone in front of and behind them. The camaraderie is like a drug.


You realize, too, that everyone has a story. I was matched stride for stride by a gentleman in his late 70s on those last 2 miles. The only difference was he was man enough to take a beer shot, when I couldn’t even begin to stomach it. “If I puke, I’ll know what I did!” he chuckled as we shuffled on. I saw a young man with his military pack and boots, a firefighter in his gear, and spoke with a woman who told me she dedicates every mile she logs to a young woman, who was a stranger to her just a year ago, who is battling a terminal disease.

Today, I took the girls for a walk around the loop behind our house. It’s just under .5 mile. I can’t help but think of how I started out, last spring, begging my body to make it around that loop twice without having to stop. That was just about 5 months ago. I’m going to say the thing you’re not supposed to say here, but I am so gosh dang, holy crap, unbelievably proud of myself. In a life where it’s easiest to be self deprecating and always want more from yourself, for once I am insanely impressed with and proud of myself for putting in the hours and the pain and seeing this bucket list item of mine all the way through to the finish line. I ran 13.1 miles. The strength of the mind’s will to prevail and the body’s ability to follow is amazing.

I’m thankful to every stranger who stood along that course and cheered me on. Unbelievably grateful to the family and friends who made a special trip on their Saturday morning just to see me accomplish this goal. It didn’t have to mean anything to anyone else but me, but it did and that fills my heart with gratitude and humility in a capacity I’ve never known. I’m thankful to my brother, who not only ran 7.5 miles with me in the dark with very little warning, but also helped with my kids so I could keep training while Hank was out of town. I’m thankful to Jill and Britni for the companionship, encouragement, inspiration and friendship every step of the way, even if that meant asking each other repeatedly whose stupid idea this was to begin with. But most of all, I’m immensely grateful for my husband who had to make sacrifices these past 3 months and stand aside while I continued to complain about self-inflicted pain, exhaustion and fear. He never made me feel guilty or like I was a bad mother for chasing this dream down for myself.


Before we left the stadium after the race, Spike said, “Mama, did you win?”
“I sure did,” I said. “You want to wear my medal?”
“Mama, I’m so proud of you.”
“Thank you, baby. That means the world to me.”


And I realized how much she’d been watching and the weight of that responsibility. It was one more shot of validation and, at least for the day, I did feel like Superwoman. At least to her.

Until next time …

Tune in Today, Wellness

Tying up my training tales

September 22, 2015
Update: Tune in today to see if she can … train for a half marathon.
Yesterday was beautiful in the midwest. It was one of those Sundays where you can feel summer dancing with fall, and it’s warm enough for short sleeves but smells like burning leaves. It also happened to be our last long training run (let the angels sing).

This journey, while not completely over yet, has gone remarkably fast. Not while I was doing the actual running per se, but in hindsight. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my mind and my body. I’ve learned a little bit about what the human spirit begs for when it’s clinging to exhaustion. I’ve learned that a solid playlist and hidden frozen water bottle at a halfway point can be the difference between thrill and defeat. I’ve learned that I can usually predict, within the first mile of a long run, if the coming hours will be hell or happy. And mostly I’ve learned that this sport is completely unpredictable and really, fantastically freaking hard.

Here is a look back at the best and the worst of my long runs.
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I realize this sounds a little crazy considering the miles we logged, but our 5 mile run was brutal and maybe the hardest of them all. Britni and I worked through a route that ran the perimeter of my neighborhood and then through it. Problem was, it was 89 degrees with no breeze and the roads were black asphalt. I had to walk twice and made an early prediction we would never make it to the actual race.
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Six was fairly uneventful. The sun was blazing by 10 am, so  I ran 4 of it outside alone and then topped ‘er off with 2 miles on the treadmill while I treated myself to Mean Girls. This was also the day I realized I could never train for a half marathon on a treadmill because I obsessed over watching the distance tick by. When it came to machinery, there’d be none for Gretchen Wieners. That was the only training run I did on the treadmill.
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If I could bottle a run and drink it every time I had to tap into some wicked cardio, it would be that 7 mile run. It was a cooler summer evening, we played music out loud and hid waters at our halfway point. Nothing felt like it was breaking or grinding or seizing, and I finally felt like we had this thing on lock. Look how happy we were …
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Every victory we claimed the week before vanished on our 8 mile route. With all the best intentions, Britni mapped out a course on her side of town. Started off great, looping around a pretty private lake. But then, there was something neither of us saw coming: The steepest, longest, most unforgiving beast of a hill I’ve ever encountered on foot. At least when I wasn’t intentionally scaling an epic mountain. It was about 4 miles into the run and was a true spirt breaker. From Everest on, we were quiet, breathy and barely hanging on. That was a long run. Hot and long.
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So, I have this friend, and she’s a very dear friend, but we’ve always given each other a hard time. We’re brutally honest and sarcastic and used to literally wrestle each other (not in a sorority girl pillow fight kind of way, but like a, we once tried to make each other eat cat food by shoving it into each other’s mouths kind of way) after we each downed a bottle of wine watching a full season of Sex and the City. Friendships are complex, man. Anyway, Britni was on vacay and we’d been wanting to run together, so Jill came over to my neck of the woods to knock out 9 miles. It was a run I was dreading and I was, it’s fair to say, a little worked up. I had a route, I had waters, I had a plan. I always have a plan, she was quick to remind me. And she wasn’t feeling the route, a point which she was also very quick to remind me of … and remind me … and remind me … and remind me, until we finally veered off my trail and onto hers. Needless to say, about 2.5 miles in, we had to take a 5-minute break from speaking to each other so we didn’t wrestle on someone’s front lawn. The silent treatment is much more suitable for two grown ass mothers of three. After our brief reprieve, we took care of business and the run turned out pretty great, actually. (She’ll know after she reads this, but I actually run the route I discovered at her unyielding insistence every time I go to that trail now. Damn it, I love it.)
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I hit 9 again the following week just to be sure. Britni was still on vacation and Jill and I hadn’t decided if we liked our running partnership after our first pass at it, so I found myself in a bit of a bind. It was surely going to be dark by the end of my run, so I preferred not to hit it alone. When I signed up for the half, my big brother offered to join me on a long run if I ever needed someone. Well, I needed someone. Matt is a great runner and has done several half marathons, but he hadn’t been training for this one. The big guy held in with me until almost 8 miles, gem that he is. There was no warning to his white flag, really. He just planted his feet, told me he could most likely see me if I got into trouble, and he’d meet me at the car. Thanks, bra.
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Jill and I made up just in time for the 10 mile run. She, of course, didn’t tell me until about an hour before that her bud Cassie would be joining us. Cassie is, of course, a marathon runner who is, of course, much faster than, of course, me. But anything beats pounding 10 miles of pavement by yourself. Around mile 5 I realized I might die. Around mile 8 I started sending up the silent prayers to get through it. Somewhere in the dark of night we crossed an invisible finish line and it felt so dang good to check off a box with double digits on my training schedule. Hell, i still can’t believe i did it.
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With Britni back in the game, we decided to tackle 10 again the following weekend. She mentioned she’d been battling an upper respiratory thing, but was feeling much better. We started at our usual pace; comfortable as a pair of fleece pants and an undershirt. I noticed she was sniffling. Then we stopped a few times so she could blow her nose. Then she stopped talking. Then her face got really red. You guys, I thought I was going to lose her, permanently. Not to be dramatic, but … oh. my. lanta.  My girl did not look good. We split for a bit, but that tough cookie kept at it to clock 9 miles. Not too shabby for a gal in respiratory distress.

Six days, an inhaler and lots of fluids later, we decided to swing for the stars and try an 11 miler before the race. A bright sun cut through the early autumn breeze to make it just warm enough for the face sweat to strike hard. I made the comment shortly in that it didn’t feel like it would be a great run. And it wasn’t. My knees hurt and ole Britni was gasping before we hit the third mile. With her tight lungs and my old stems, we somehow managed to log about 9 miles and that was that. It was a bold attempt. But it wasn’t pretty.

So, here we are. Just 4 days till the big race and we left things frustrated and fragile. At this point, there are a lot of eggs in the adrenaline basket. Let’s hope there’s enough to carry us at least, we’ll call it the last 4 miles.

A few final thoughts on training.
Breakouts! My skin hasn’t been this bad since I was 15.
Sore knees, hips and calves. I feel like an old, retired rodeo clown.
The schedule is such a monster time sucker. It’s like … what do my kids look like again?
I’m so dang hungry. I want to eat all of the things.

I’ve found so many great songs building my playlists. (Best thing about running in the dark of night is I can mouth the words and no one can see me.)

I never felt a runner’s high necessarily, but I do get a sweet endorphin buzz about 30 minutes after I finish a significant run. Hey, it’s free and legal, folks!
The time I’ve gotten with Britni, Jill, my brother and even myself, is such a rare treat for this over scheduled mama. No complaints about the company (except Jill, just that one time).

Until Saturday … 

Tune in Today

Three stops on my training journey (thus far)

July 22, 2015

UPDATE: Tune in today to see if she can … run a half marathon. 



Basically, to bring you up to speed, I have none. (See what I did there?) But there have been a few exciting developments in regard to my running game.

No. 1, I found my stride soulmate. Much like you, I had my doubts. The crop of athletes out there who choose to bounce up and down rather than out and forward is slim, but somehow I unearthed a gal who treads as turtle-ish as I do. She sweats like a long-lost sister and does the dance between self-deprecating pessimism and desperate optimism with the mastery of Misty Copeland. When the piggies meet the pavement, we are a match made in heaven. Not to mention, she’s just a pretty stellar individual and fascinating creature. (She only eats smooth peanut butter on hamburger or hotdog buns, Kraft macaroni and cheese, plantain chips, and romaine lettuce with cheddar cheese and French dressing. That’s her diet. Always. Every day. She carries French dressing in her purse, you guys. I can’t make this stuff up.)


No. 2, I have confirmed the universal hypothesis that the farther you go, the harder it is. Let me repeat: It is very true that running far is brutal, self-inflicted punishment for a false sense of confidence that you embraced somewhere in your past. Sure, the goal seemed super sexy when it was you, a bunch of quotes on Pinterest and a pair of tight trousers. But now, 2 1/2 weeks in, it feels more like the definition of insanity. You keep lacing up and checking off the boxes of your training plan, because Hal said so, only to feel like you got jumped in a back alley by a bunch of no-good goons with billy clubs. And then you go back to the friggin alley three times a week! What kind of person does that? An insane one. And the whole “runner’s high” phenomenon … I can only assume I’m still stuck in the “jogger’s low” but the good stuff is coming.

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No. 3, Running is a serious mind f*@k. (Excuse my language, but the symbols softened the blow, Mom.) Yesterday, I ran 5 miles. Seems like nothing when I think of the folks out there logging 100-mile mudders threw jungles and mountain tops, but still, it was the farthest I have ever run. I had my afternoon snacks all planned out, then meetings ran over. I had my clothes situated, but I lost my lightweight sunglasses. And then, the worst thing happened. Technology failed me. [gasp!] My Runkeeper app announced we were at 4.56 miles just 14 minutes into the run. Either our asses were on fire, or the tool was jacked up. The realization that we wouldn’t be getting those mile-by-mile updates from our prerecorded female companion was a devastating blow to morale. By mile 3 (we guessed), the sun was relentless and urging us to lay down on someone’s lawn for a nice long vomit and snotty sob. I had to walk for a minute. Even though it was just 12 minutes more, just 3.4 more songs from the playlist, just 1 extra loop, it was enough to psych me out. There’s no arguing with the physical demands of running, but it’s the mental part that just absolutely levels me. The popsicles after are great though.


Until next time …



Putting on my training heels

April 7, 2015

 Tune in today to see if she can … hatch a half marathon training plan.

There is something so romantic about being a runner. Rising with the sun. Worn sneakers with soles that trap and hold stories of triumph and trial. Lean arms that swing and pump and plead for one more mile. The pain. The glory. The reward of making it farther than ever before. It’s the most awe-inspiring example of the power of will. Of course I’ve never experienced these things personally (I know, I really sold it in those first few sentences), but when I watch people pounding the pavement on my drive in to work, I momentarily crush on their endurance. The fact that they’re out there. That they are runners. And then I think, damn it, I want to be a runner.The natural retort here would be, “Then go run, fool!” but the truth is, it isn’t that easy. To put it nicely, I am stride challenged. I have all the ambition, but none of the athleticism. I learned several years ago that I am great at moving up and down, and terrible at moving forward; a problem, some would say, when it comes to covering distance.
In high school, we had something called Summer Gym. The program was a requirement for athletes and basically a form of torture for hormonal adolescents in which we were turned out in 98-degree conditions and told to  run, dash through tires and look disgusting in front of every boy we ever liked. The climax of Summer Gym was the infamous run to Lion’s Park. Let’s call it 3 miles round trip. My girlfriends pulled the period card and bailed, leaving me and my yet-to-be-diagnosed stationary stride. About 1 mile in, it became clear my only hope was a stamp transfer. Please, god of teenagers, let me get a stamp transfer. When a runner reached the park, they received a Sharpie stamp on the back of their hand before looping back to finish the course at the school. Runner after runner came back at me, Sharpie mark flashing, until I finally spotted a cheerleader comrade. We locked eyes, desperation in mine, pity in hers. She pressed her Sharpie against the back of my sweaty hand. We held them there for maybe a full minute. Nothing. There was no hope now. I was going to have to run the rest of the route. Worse yet, the group couldn’t stretch and leave for the day until every single runner returned. I finished dead last. They sent a football player to get me. I believe his words of encouragement were, “Move your ass!” if memory serves.

Since that fateful day, I have been chasing down redemption. I want to run a half marathon more than anything. I’ve walked it three times, with a little jogging peppered in. But this is the year. I have developed a very detailed 5-part action plan for how I am going to come at it.

1. Pick a race and sign up.
Done. It’s at the end of September in my hometown.

2. Get some new kicks.
I always end up with Brooks Adrenalines, but I’ll still go to our local running
store for my biannual analysis because I like watching my feet on camera and imposing my self-deprecating commentary on the sales guy.

 3. Train to train.
There is this wonderful gal at work who runs the real deal races. She has helped several other people come up with a kickass training program, so I picked one I liked and sent it to her. She asked how far, frequently and fast I am currently running. I sent my stats. Her response was sweet and thoughtful and she (summarized) basically suggested I use the program I had found to get me ready to start a real training program in July. So, I need to train to train. I get it. That’s where I’m at. Truth is a liquor best served straight up. So, I’m starting my pretraining training program today.

4. Train.
In July, I will begin one of Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Novice training programs. I’ll have to give this more thought when I get there.

5. Find some sucker
I have solicited a few friends to join me, with some interest returned. I had a great walking partner, who very politely passed on trying to run the thing. I worry about someone with a quick or long stride because, as we’ve established, this is not my jam. I need someone who is determined to finish, but not super speedy.
So, here we go … 26 weeks and counting!

What the scale said in February

March 2, 2015

Since the first time I stepped on to see my 3-digit starting point after Sloppy Joan (also known as the slap-out-of-denial dose of shame they prescribe at the postpartum checkup), I’ve had a daunting number hanging over my head. Now, something to keep in mind here, I’m not shooting for the supermodel-slim stars. I have my eyes on a prize that puts me simply within my “healthy” weight range and by and large, a bullseye for my BMI. And I know that being well is more than a number; it’s the way your denim doesn’t dig into your flat tire and the extra 30 minutes you can tack onto the family bike ride. Now that we have those pleasantries out of the way …

The scale says:
Down –  24 pounds
To Go – 23 pounds

This is a dance I’ve done before. I’ve done it three times, to be exact, and the partner is always the same. It’s a two-faced counterpart that consists of both an uber health-conscious chia-eater and a fried food/sugar addict who goes to bed with the first cookie she sees.I admire women who keep their weight down through each trimester and quickly bounce back to their beautiful selves. I equally admire those who fight like hell to lose every pint of Chubby Hubby, basket of fried pickles and bag of Cheetos, because they know what they did and they know their sentence is a year – or however long it takes – of awkward sweat, suffocating guilt and tough choices to get it off. So, obviously, I am a card-carrying member of the latter, and I’m only halfway out of the woods.
I feel less pressure to drop my extra l-bs as quickly this go-around. First of all, red carpet season is over (thank goodness), and second, we aren’t planning on more babies. I always felt like it was a race against my maternal clock to shed the weight before the next tenant checked into my uterus. This time, I know it’s a lifelong investment.
The plan. The progress.*
Whole30 – Completed February 5 (100%)
Kayla Itsines 12-week Bikini Body – On Week 6 (50%)
Join a gym – Officially members and finding a stride(3%)
Clean eating – Oy. (2.1%)
Half Marathon – Need to train to start training in July (1%)
Hike – Planning phase (2%)
Yoga – Every Sunday (10%)
Slim & Sassy essential oil – Skeptical, but it’s in the mail (5%)

*These percentages are based on complete bullshit because I don’t know how to do math or quantify something like “joining a gym”.